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Spiced clarified butter or Niter kibbeh

If you have ever had Ethiopian or Eritrean cuisine and wondered about that amazing aroma that envelopes you as your enter the restaurant and what the delicious signature flavor is, it is niter kibbeh. Niter kibbeh is a spiced ghee that is the basis for seasoning Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Soft and rich, this condiment adds layers of subtle flavors that are irresistible.

In the US, I would purchase this product from Brundo Spices, they make the best flavored niter kibbeh I have tried. However, it is not available in India, so here is the recipe for all of us home chefs that want to have authentic Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine.

I was looking through my library for a recipe and cane across two recipes that had minor differences. Usually I choose a recipe, but here I chose to combine the two recipes. In addition, we get some really good organic ghee in India, so I decided to use ghee as the starting point, rather than butter. This change allowed me not to worry about burning the proteins in the butter but focus on getting the spice flavors correct. The only difficult step in this recipe is to be patient, slow cook the ghee, the herbs and spices need time to develop the flavors and you really do not want to burn the oil.

The niter kibbeh came out delicate and aromatic, with tones and notes of the spices. Next step is to cook a wonderful Ethiopian meal.

Marcus Samuelsson's cookbook (more recipes here) is the original bible on African cuisine that has won practically every cookbook award that there is. Packed with recipes from across the continent, this cookbook is filled with wonderful authentic recipes.

Gebreyesus' newer cookbook (more recipes here) is specialized to wonderful Ethiopian cuisine and filled with wonderful recipes from one of my favorite cuisines.


1 lb butter or ghee (organic strongly preferred)

1/2 onion, finely minced

1 large garlic clove, finely minced

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds

1 teaspoon nigella (kalonji) seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

8-10 Thai (or regular) basil leaves

Heat he butter on low heat with all the herbs and spices added. Cook on a very low flame for 30 minutes. Stir the mix as often as possible and watch that it is not burning. You should cook this on a very low flame as the butter/ghee has a very low melting point and cooking on high heat will darken the ghee and burn the spices.

Strain through a very fine metal (not plastic as it may melt) mesh strainer, lined with a fine muslin cloth for a clearer liquid. If you use only a metal strainer the very small particulate matter from the powders may get through, this is not a problem except visually.

It can be stored in an air tight glass container in the fridge for months.

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